EBT card issue signals welfare debate in Legislature

7:59 PM, Jan 8, 2014   |    comments
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AUGUSTA, Maine (NEWS CENTER) -- The Legislature went back to work today in Augusta, with the budget and welfare issues at the top of most priority lists. And right from the start, the Governor is also getting into the issues.

Democrats are determined to try again to expand Medicaid, or Maine care., to cover an estimated 70,000 more people. The same proposal failed last year by a few votes. Republicans and the Governor are all talking about putting new restrictions on welfare programs, and getting tough on fraud, including those EBT cards. Governor LePage first raised the EBT issue in mid-December, when he announced that an investigation showed many cases where the cards had been used to buy alcohol and cigarettes, and even used out of state. On Tuesday, LePage released more details, showing about 3,700 improper transactions over a two-year period.He also announced that Maine cards had been used in all 50 states, and that they had even found $8,000 spent at the New Hampshire liquor stores.

Democratic leaders say they, too, want to root out fraud and misuse of EBT cards, but want to make sure the steps taken don't harm legitimate users. Republican leaders say they believe the EBT revelations indicate a major problem with welfare abuse - consistent with GOP complaints about welfare over the past six months.
The Governor says he will ask for changes to card regulations, such as photo ID's on the cards, and will push for changes to block use of cards to get money for liquor and cigarettes.


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